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Utilities may hit limits soon on wind power-generated electricity  

Credit:  By TORU NAKAGAWA/ Staff Writer | The Asahi Shimbun | ajw.asahi.com 1 July 2012 ~~

A feed-in tariff (FIT) system that obligates electric power companies to buy renewable energy-generated electricity at fixed prices from companies or individuals kicked in on July 1.

The system is designed to promote the use of solar, wind and other renewable power sources.

However, the total volume of wind power-generated electricity the utilities decided to purchase by June 30 has already reached 70 percent of the limit set by those firms, sources said.

As the transmission network for wind power-generated electricity has not been sufficiently constructed, the limit cannot be expanded, they said.

Though the FIT requires electric power companies to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy means, wind power-generated electricity is likely to reach the maximum they will be required to purchase in the near future, sources added.

In the new system, electric power companies purchase natural energy-generated electricity from companies or individuals. But the volume of electricity generated by wind power varies dramatically depending on the climate. To stabilize the volume to be sold to electric power companies, a limit has been set for wind power-generated electricity to be purchased by those utilities.

According to an Asahi Shimbun survey, electric power companies have set a total limit of about 4.3 million kilowatts, equivalent to the total electricity generated by four nuclear reactors.

Of the 10 nuclear power companies in Japan, three have not set their limits on the basis that, in their service areas, there are few places suitable for wind power generation. The three are Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co.

Meanwhile, the remaining seven utilities already plan to purchase a total of about 3 million kilowatts of wind power-generated electricity, which is almost 70 percent of the limit.

For example, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has set its limit at 560,000 kilowatts. However, it has already committed to purchasing 520,000 kilowatts, or 93 percent, of that ceiling.

To expand the limit, it is necessary to heighten transmission capabilities by increasing transmission lines. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, however, it takes more than five years to do so in Hokkaido and Tohoku where wide areas of lands are suitable for wind power generation. Construction costs will also exceed 1 trillion yen (about $12.5 billion).

Electric power companies have no plans to dramatically increase their transmission capabilities. Even in 2020, their total limit will be only 6 million kilowatts, or 40 percent more than at present.

Currently, wind power accounts for only 0.4 percent of the total electricity volume generated in Japan. According to the government’s calculations, in the case that no electricity is generated by nuclear power plants in 2030, natural energy will account for 35 percent of the total electricity supply. Of that volume, 12 percent, or about one-third, is expected to come from wind power.

Source:  By TORU NAKAGAWA/ Staff Writer | The Asahi Shimbun | ajw.asahi.com 1 July 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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